My first gig in ages and I confess it takes a bit to get me out of the house at the moment. “A bit” equates to the lunatics of Ward XVI and two support bands, and a venue which I know and like. And it was definitely worth the trip (and very late night)!
Openers Splintered Halo are local-ish, but managed to be a little bit late due to transport issues. However, like true pros their delayed bassist and vocalist pretty much leapt on stage upon arrival, trusting the sound setup provided for them. The band dropped a song from their set to ensure they wouldn’t crash into Death Ingloria, too. This was going to turn out to be quite the shame as Splintered Halo turned out to be pretty damn good.
One look at their costumes and you had an idea that they’d be folk metal, and I’d say that’s the pigeonhole I’d squish them into. However, the breadth of their sound was impressive as was the delivery. Their songs are historically-based, from what I gathered, with perhaps a hint of theatrical embellishment and tongue-in-cheek humour. I noted two songs in particular and one received its live debut this evening. Coming from their upcoming album “Swan Lake” riffs heavily on the Tchaikovsky original (you may have heard of him from his earlier days in Korpiklaani…) and it absolutely blew me away. A great song, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else they come up with for the LP.
They closed with a belter, “My Deck Is Bigger Than Yours“, a heavy piratical number about Irish pirate Anne Bonny who “came out” and revealed herself as a woman (shock horror) in a career pretty much 100% male dominated. Throughout the set, I was impressed by the solid drumming, the twin guitar, the complex bass parts, and the vocals… wow, the vocals. The band’s singer has an amazing range. She covered harsh growls, high-end near opera, simple clean and witch-like accented parts. Absolutely brilliant stuff.
Splintered Halo are now very much on my radar.
So onto the touring support, Death Ingloria. A slightly smaller ensemble, only three members, but with a ton of kit on stage. Their set resembled a musical multimedia performance more than a simple handful of songs, and this holds true to the way they market themselves.
Lead singer, guitarist and brains behind the outfit Galina Rin performs off to one side while the centre stage is filled with a rear-projected circular screen. The band’s music backs up the visuals displayed thereon, and audio/visual segments link the songs together. More like watching a musical than a bunch of songs linked together with banal frontperson chatter. The only thing which let the show down was that I was struggling to make out Galina’s lyrics. Her singing voice is great, but the mix didn’t do things justice. So I guess I’ll have to focus on the album I was handed and which will be reviews shortly!
The rhythm section backing her up was meaty and loud, and importantly completely in time with the visuals. As a non-musician I’m impressed when the people on stage can stay in time with themselves. Add a further element to proceedings, and I’m even more impressed. I recall thinking the same thing when I saw WASP touring some years (10 of them!) ago in Edinburgh.
Two bands down and both added to my “must check out more” list. This is why you should always get to the show early and catch the supports!
And our headliners. We’ve reviewed Ward XVI quite a bit recently, partly as so many of our Crew head to their shows. They’re riding a bit of a wave at the moment, finally getting out and about to promote last year’s superb Metamorphosis album, and cramming a near-full stage set into small venues. Having seen them at Bloodstock last year, I’m frankly staggered by how much of that show made it into Ivory Blacks’ slightly smaller enclosure.
Focussing mainly on the new album, but scattering songs from The Art of Manipulation throughout, we are taken on a journey through Psychoberrie’s life from birth to incarceration. What really sets Ward XVI apart from so many other bands, though, is the focus on connection the music to the story to the audience. The props are superb given the tight budget they’ve been made with, and have just the right amount of freaky jankiness about them. Think Alice Cooper levels of gore, and you’re about there. Only Alice Cooper doesn’t wander through the audience because his props are too tall to fit on the stage!
Given everything that goes on on (and off) stage, a Ward XVI show is all the more impressive. Choreographing everything is that bit more complicated when you have creepy creatures to worry about and a story to tell as well as music to play. The main band, as a result, is incredibly tight. Psychoberrie, of course, is the focal point from several perspectives. She’s backed by the super guitar work of Doktor Von Stottenstein while the shaggy Wolfy Huntsman keeps things ticking over on bass. Recently (comparatively) incarcerated and part of the band is Bam Bam Bedlam on drums who was hidden at the back for most of tonight’s show until some of the scenery was removed. Which is almost a good thing as he is, frankly, the creepiest looking of the whole lot (no offence, please don’t hurt me).
Mother features throughout from off-kilter start to violent end, while Rico Rameres (who I found out later was based on Tragedy’s Lance!) runs himself ragged for the entire show before finally getting on the microphone during the encore.
We had scary big puppets, poison, witch burning, murder, a circus pit and so much more. And that on top of the previous two acts who’d had a great reception in their own right.
Given how cheap the tickets were, it’s a scandal that the place wasn’t rammed. Nicely busy, but with room for plenty more. It’s seeing the quality of our underground scene that leaves me with hope that our music is safe, but we need more of you to get out there and support the venues! Check your local listings and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of bands touring right now to choose from. And if one of them happens to be Splintered Halo, Death Ingloria or Ward XVI then you’ve no excuse for missing them!